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In Sicily during the 1800s, as the aristocracy found itself being suffocated by a newly democratic fervor, Prince Don Fabrizio Salina tries to hold on to the past, but it appears that his glory days are waning. This is perfectly exemplified by his nephew Tancredi Falconeri and his gorgeous wife-to-be Angelica. As the revolt gathers steam and begins to affect a real change, the aging prince must come to terms with the new world that surrounds him.
For more about The Leopard and The Leopard Blu-ray release, see The Leopard Blu-ray Review
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale, Paolo Stoppa, Rina Morelli, Serge Reggiani
Director: Luchino Visconti
» See full cast & crew
The Leopard Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 14, 2010
Winner of the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival, Luchino Visconti's "Il gattopardo" a.k.a "The Leopard" (1963) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features provided with this release include the film's American version; an audio commentary with film scholar Peter Cowie; "A Dying Breed: The Making of The Leopard"; interview with producer Goffredo Lombardo; "The History of the Risorgimento", a video interview with Italian culture scholar Millicent Marcus; promotional materials; and stills gallery. The disc also arrives with a 16-page illustrated booklet. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
Prince Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster, Birdman of Alcatraz) feels that times are changing. Garibaldi has landed in Sicily, and even his adored nephew, Tancredi (Alain Delon, The Assassination of Trotsky), who he has fancied to be his successor, has joined his army. Concerned about the future of his family, Fabrizio invites the newly elected mayor of the village, Don Calogero Sedara (Paolo Stoppa, The Gold of Naples), to dine with him in his palace because he knows that in the future he will need Calogero as a friend.
Calogero arrives at Fabrizio's palace with his beautiful daughter Angelica (Claudia Cardinale, Girl with a Suitcase), who immediately steals Tancredi's heart. Fabrizio is also impressed by her beauty, and so is his wife, Princess Maria Stella (Rina Morelli, Senso), who immediately senses that her plan to marry Tancredi to one of her daughters, Concetta (Lucilla Morlacchi, A Milanese Story), is in jeopardy.
Tancredi begs Fabrizio to ask Calogero for Angelica's hand and then leaves the palace to join Garibaldi's men. Upon learning about Tancredi's request, however, Princess Maria Stella goes berserk and warns her husband that a marriage between the two will not only hurt Concetta, who has already confessed to Father Pirrone (Romolo Valli, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis) that she is in love with Tancredi, but will also tarnish the family's reputation. But Fabrizio brushes her off and instead meets Calogero and announces Tancredi's intention.
Tancredi returns to the palace, but this time as an officer of King Victor Emmanuel's Army. He brings with him Count Cavriaghi (Terence Hill, They Call Me Trinity...), who he hopes Concetta would fall in love with. After Fabrizio greets him, Tancredi gives Angelica a beautiful engagement ring.
Meanwhile, an emissary from Turin arrives at the palace and invites Fabrizio to become a senator in the newly established parliament. Much to his surprise, however, Fabrizio declines the offer. Before they part ways, Fabrizio notes: "We were the leopards, the lions. Those who replace us will be the jackals, the hyenas. And all of us, leopards, lions, jackals and sheep, will continue to think we're the salt of the earth".
Based on the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, a Sicilian aristocrat who lived during the Risorgimento (the Italian unification), Luchino Visconti's The Leopard recreates an important period of Italy's past during which Garibaldi and his men invaded Sicily and clashed with the Bourbon supporters, defeated the army of the King of Naples, and consequently turned in Sicily and Naples to Victor Emmanuel, who became the first king of united Italy. The shock waves these events created in the Italian South are felt through Fabrizio's mixed reactions – approving of change and progress and at the same time targeting and criticizing the men who symbolized both.
The Leopard, however, is not a political film. If anything, it is a deeply nostalgic film. All of the dramatic conflicts in it lead to Fabrizio's profound realization that "for things to remain the same, everything must change".
Visconti was very specific about the look of The Leopard, which is why the emphasis on period detail in it is mind-boggling. The massive ball at the end of the film, for instance, is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever shot, truly evoking the spirit of a time when people worshiped excess.
Throughout the years, The Leopard has appeared in a number of different versions. When it premiered in Italy, the film apparently had a running time of approximately 205 minutes, but shortly after that Visconti edited it in a preferred by him 185-minute version. For its American premiere, The Leopard was dubbed in English and further cut down to 161 minutes. According to various Italian sources, in 1963, a different version of The Leopard was apparently shown at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the coveted Palme d'Or award.
The Leopard Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.21:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Luchino Visconti's The Leopard arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following texts appears in the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Director of photography Giuseppe Rotunno supervised this high-definition digital transfer, which was created on a Spirit Datacine from the original 35mm 8-perforation negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction".
"The American version of The Leopard is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. The digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from 4-perforation 35mm interpositive. The 4-perforation reduction was created in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio".
The Italian version of The Leopard looks absolutely stunning. Fine object detail is excellent, clarity very impressive and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. It is the film's color-scheme, however, that impresses the most. Yellows, greens, blues, reds, browns, blacks and whites are notably rich and well saturated. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are never an issue of concern. The film's grain structure is also intact, though some minor noise corrections have been applied. Furthermore, there are absolutely no stability issues to report in this review either. Finally, I did not see any large cuts, splices, debris, or stains. All in all, this is an outstanding Blu-ray release by the folks at Criterion, and in my opinion the best one yet in their quite remarkable catalog.
The American version of The Leopard is encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080i transfer. Unlike the Italian version, the American version has a fairly inconsistent color-scheme and is plagued by a variety of minor flecks, stains, marks, scratches, and cuts. Its contrast levels are also quite shaky. Optional English subtitles are not provided for it.
(Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Leopard Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Italian version of The Leopard arrives with an Italian LPCM 1.0 audio track, which serves legendary composer Nino Rota's terrific soundtrack exceptionally well. Additionally, the dialog is crisp, clean, stable and very easy to follow. I also did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review. Finally, Criterion have included optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The American version of The Leopard arrives with an English Dolby Digital 1.0 track. Unlike the Italian LPCM 1.0 track, the English Dolby Digital 1.0 track contains plenty of minor background hiss. The dialog appears relatively stable, but the crisp strings that are so prominent on the Italian LPCM 1.0 track are missing on the English Dolby Digital 1.0 track. There are no optional English subtitles for the American version.
The Leopard Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary - a very informative audio commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie, which also appears on Criterion's 3DVD set of The Leopard.
The American Version - the American version of The Leopard premiered in New York City on July 15, 1963, just under four months after the film's Italian release. Cut from 185 to 161 minutes, the American version version features an English-language track soundtrack, with star Burt Lancaster and supporting players Leslie French (Cavaliere Chevelley) providing their own voices. (1080i).
A Dying Breed: The Making of The Leopard - a collection of interviews with some of the principal actors in the film, crew members, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, author of The Leopard, Sydney Pollack, and others, who talk about the rich history of the film, Visconti as a filmmaker, the era he belonged to, how Italian cinema evolved after Visconti passed away. In Italian and English, with optional English subtitles for the Italian portions of the program. (62 min, 1080i).
Goffredo Lombardi interview - in this interview producer Goffredo Lombardo, whose Titanus Films was bankrupted by Visconti, recalls his involvement with the famous director. Interviewed by Luciana Migliavacca. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (20 min, 1080i).
The History of the Risorgimento - in this video interview, Italian culture scholar Millicent Marcus discusses the Giuseppe Garibaldi, Camillo Benso di Cavour, and Giuseppe Mazzini's placement in the annals of Italian history. In English, not subtitled. (14 min, 1080i).
Promotional materials - posters, Italian newsreels, Italian trailer, and two American trailers for the film.
Stills gallery -
Booklet - a 16-page illustrated booklet containing Michael Wood's essay "Remembrance of the Things Past" (the author teaches at Princeton).
The Leopard Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is a very special release by the folks at Criterion. During the last couple of months we have seen some quite remarkable releases of classic films, but Luchino Visconti's The Leopard is in a league of its own. This is clearly a prime contender for a Blu-ray release of the year. Bravo! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Leopard Blu-ray, News and Updates
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The Leopard Blu-ray Screenshots
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